Neverwinter MMO Adds Bard Class in Jewel of the North Expansion

Neverwinter has officially launched its 'Jewel of the North' expansion, adding a brand new class [...]

Neverwinter has officially launched its "Jewel of the North" expansion, adding a brand new class to the free-to-play MMO for the first time in five years. Perfect World Entertainment Inc. has launched its 21st module for Neverwinter, a free-to-play MMO based on Dungeons & Dragons. The update also introduces major quality-of-life changes to Neverwinter, streamlining its leveling system from a Level 80 cap to a Level 20 cap and adding a new Adventures features that makes it easier to play through content and see what's coming next.

Ahead of its release, spoke with Neverwinter senior designer Salim Grant about how the new Bard class works, the challenge of bringing a class based on theatrics to an MMO game, and some of the new features added to Neverwinter as part of the new update.

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(Photo: Perfect World Entertainment) The Bard is the first playable class to be added to Neverwinter in six years. What were the challenges to adding a brand-new class to such an established game?

Salim Grant: The main challenge was translating such an iconic Dungeons & Dragons class into Neverwinter, and making sure the class felt unique and fun to play for all players. Taking advantage of the class' musical theme and style, allowed us to craft interesting gameplay mechanics that we have never done before to really capture the look and feel of the class.

What mechanics did you decide to focus on when building the Bard class?

The music is what makes the class stand out more than others so that's what we mainly focused on during development, and with that in mind, we were able to come up with some great music mechanics specifically built for the class.

Basically, when the bard wants to play a song, they do so by entering Perform Mode. Once in this mode, combining a certain series of notes together will play as a song much to the delight of the Bard and their team. Each song requires a different series of notes with a varied number of inputs in order to be executed.

Along with Perform Mode, we also added Free Perform Mode. This mode offers much more freedom than Perform. In Perform Mode, you are limited in available notes and really only use it to execute the specific Bard songs that are useful for combat situations. In Free Perform, you have the freedom to increase and decrease octaves and execute accidentals to craft new music or recreate your favorite tune.

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(Photo: Perfect World Entertainment)

Obviously, creativity and performance are at the heart of being a Bard. How do you bring that sort of theatricity to an online MMORPG?

Along with the aforementioned mechanics that we've introduced with this class, the Bard has two unique paragon paths, Songblade and Minstrel, which really capture the duality of the class.

The Songblade is a showy, flamboyant fighter who relies more on the visual execution of the bard style. This is apparent in the way they dash around the battlefield while occasionally drawing out their lute to sing a spontaneous song of battle.

The Minstrel enjoys supporting their group with refreshing carols and minuets that heal both the mind and body while guarding against continued damage. What they lack in extravagance they make up for in musical skill.

With the two paragon paths and the new performance mechanics, we believe we've captured the heart of what the Bard class should feel like to play, and because of that, players can truly live out their bardic dreams in The Forgotten Realms.

In D&D 5E, the bard is usually among the more versatile characters, so how did you bring that versatility to the game?

With the Bard class in Neverwinter, there's a lot that players can do both in and out of combat, that makes it so versatile, just like the Bard in D&D. In combat, as a Songblade or Minstrel, the Bard's versatility comes in its ability to support and heal their teammates and damage their foes through song and flashy abilities.

Those who are Songblades can choose to be right in the frontlines as they damage foes with songs like Hero's Ballad and Witches' Ballad, whereas Minstrels can stay back, dance around the battlefield with their lute in hand, and focus on passive healing, damage mitigation and buffs. Each paragon path offers various options for players to choose from, so they can customize their Bard experience however they'd like.

Outside of battle, Bards can leisurely play songs wherever they'd like (including taverns!), hone their skills in the new Training Room — part of the new Adventurer's Guild — and simply explore all that Neverwinter has to offer.

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(Photo: Perfect World Entertainment)

Do you feel that adding a bard will present a new way for players to go back and experience old content, such as traveling to Ravenloft or Avernus?

Definitely. The Bard class has several unique experiences to offer because of its mechanics and paragon paths, so I think that alone is a good reason to play through Neverwinter again with the new class. Because of the new leveling experience introduced in this update, it's even easier rediscover the greatness within Neverwinter. Since the max level cap has transitioned from level 80 to level 20, players can level up their Bards and other characters faster. So, those who want to give the Bard class a try, and experience all of the game's content and worlds, can do so easily and quickly.

Neverwinter is free to download on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The "Jewel of the North" expansion is available now for PC and will be available on console versions in late August.